We live in a world where real food has been taken over by fake food.
We have fake flavor, fake fats, fake sweeteners, fake meat…
The problem with all these fake ingredients is that they confuse the brain and leave you wanting.
If that isn’t a recipe for depression and anxiety, I don’t know what is.
We can even expand this out to relationships. We used to sit at a table and talk face to face, now we text. If you pay attention, you can see a lot of “fake” in the world and it is dissatisfying. Deep down we want more.
But let’s stick to food for now.
When real food touches the tongue, the brain gets a signal and can then determine how many calories and nutrients are coming in. When the brain gets its fill of calories and nutrients, it will signal satisfaction, and you will put the fork down.
When fake food touches the tongue, it gives the same signals to the brain, but it doesn’t have the same calories or nutrients and that confuses the brain. Now the brain doesn’t know what to expect, so it can’t turn on satisfaction which means you will keep picking up the fork.
Fake food which leads to constant wanting is one piece of the equation we need to consider when it comes to our mental health.
The other piece is stress.
Our bodies were designed with an amazing ability to tolerate significant stressors, like being chased by a bear, or surviving hunger when food was scarce. In a short amount of time, you ditch the bear and find some food. Stress over.
Today, we experience stress 24/7. It doesn’t go away. The bear is relentless, and now there are too many bears to count!
Stress comes at us from all angles…emotional, relational, physical, mental.
Stress raises the hormone cortisol, and cortisol increases estrogen, serotonin, histamine, nitric oxide, endotoxin, and also causes a mineral imbalance, especially with magnesium, copper, and iron.
But estrogen and serotonin are good, right?
The neurotransmitter serotonin is a downer, and it decreases your energy production, especially in the brain. I know we’ve been told it’s the happy hormone, and we’ve got drugs that increase it to supposedly help with depression, but the literature is very clear that serotonin makes things worse. The last thing we want to do is increase serotonin.
Yes, we need estrogen, but more importantly, we need the right balance of progesterone to estrogen. Stress disrupts that balance, putting it in favor of estrogen and then all hell breaks loose. Estrogen also decreases the production of energy.
Histamine supports the immune system and also acts as a neurotransmitter and plays a role in sleep and wake cycles. Excess histamine impacts other neurotransmitters and can contribute to mental health issues like depression; it can alter our sleep and increase addictive behaviors.
Think of endotoxin as bacterial poop. It’s the waste created by bacteria in the gut, and it can cross the blood brain barrier. You do not want bacterial poop in your brain or in your gut. Endotoxin leads to inflammation in the body and nitric oxide production which decreases energy production.
We need magnesium and copper to make energy. Under stress, we lose both.
Copper is also needed to keep iron behaving well and flowing nicely in the blood. Without copper, iron is free to leave the blood and enter the tissues and organs where it causes oxidative stress and inflammation. The brain is an organ that can be damaged by iron.
There are many other negative effects of stress, but I think you can see that stress has a significant impact on our mental health.
And it all really comes down to energy.
If we can’t make energy, our brain can’t function well.
If we don’t get the nutrients we need, which happens when we eat fake food and when we are constantly bombarded with stress, we are going to be in an energy deficient state and in that state we are going to crave sugar.
Because sugar is the body’s preferred source of fuel.
We crave sugar for a reason. We need it! It actually helps to lower the cortisol response to stress which means it reduces the negative effects of cortisol on the brain and body.
It’s your body’s wisdom turning on the warning light that you need to refuel.
Of course, you don’t want to turn to something like Oreos as those are fake and won’t help you with energy. Sure, you will get some sugar, but then you will crash because you didn’t get the right nutrients with that sugar.
If you suffer with depression and anxiety, the best thing you can do is eat a high carbohydrate diet with fruit, honey, maple syrup, dairy (if tolerated), and even cane sugar so long as it is not paired with polyunsaturated fats (canola, soy, corn, cottonseed, peanut, safflower, sunflower, or grapeseed oils) and doesn’t replace nutrient-dense foods.
My husband passed away two years ago which is a significant stressor. I craved sugar, but I was trying to follow a low-carb diet. I would get overwhelmed easily, I couldn’t remember words or find anything, and I just felt worn out all the time.
When I added simple carbohydrates (sugars) to my diet, it was like my brain woke up. I had more energy, I slept better, I could remember where I left things. My cravings disappeared.
And I enjoyed my sugar. I think that is another key. We need to eat real food that we like, and we need to enjoy it because that is what satisfies wanting.
It’s the same in our lives. We need to find activities we like and people we enjoy. So, put your phone down, sit at the table with family or friends, and enjoy a meal with dessert.
Put a piece of dark chocolate or a praline (made with real ingredients) in your mouth and savor it.
Walk barefoot in the grass (unless you live in Texas with fire ants).
Smell the flowers.
Make liking and enjoying at least one thing in your life a priority every day.
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